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Industrialisation of self heated composite tooling based on Tailored Fibre Placement Technology

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Novel technology to optimise the composites industry's manufacturing methods

While composite materials made of polymer matrices and reinforcing fibres have become somewhat ubiquitous, they still face a barrier to more widespread uptake. An EU initiative sought to expedite processing time with self-heating technologies.

Industrial Technologies

The curing process for thermosetting resins requires a long time in the mould. This also consumes a significant amount of energy. The EU-funded GREEN-TOOLING (Industrialisation of self heated composite tooling based on tailored fibre placement technology) project pushed advances attained in the EMBROIDERY initiative to commercialisation. Tailored fibre placement (TFP) is an innovative technology that was developed in the 1990s in the garment industry. It can be used in composites manufacturing to control placement of resistive fibres to facilitate self-heating. GREEN-TOOLING targeted four applications: adapted heating elements for curing composite repairs; self-heated membranes for preforming; self-heated composite tooling; and self-heating moulds. Project partners developed self-heated membranes for repair applications, examined particular characteristics of the repair market, and produced and tested several full-scale membrane prototypes in real-life settings. Then they successfully demonstrated the self-heated membranes. The GREEN-TOOLING team demonstrated the self-heating technology in rigid tooling for composites manufacturing methods. It also developed self-heated membranes for infusion processes, and designed, produced and validated a full-scale membrane for use in an automated cycle. Self-heated components to be used with structural/heating functions in mass transportation systems were developed, followed by validation and an assessment of the benefits compared to existing approaches. In addition, the previously developed software tool to aid in design for the resistive circuit was enhanced. The electric circuits were designed in an automated way so that non-expert users can apply the technology. GREEN-TOOLING introduced an advanced system to improve the heating steps associated with most composites manufacturing practices. By doing so, it addresses a pressing need to boost productivity while reducing energy usage in such manufacturing processes.

Keywords

GREEN-TOOLING, self-heated composite tooling, fibre placement technology, tailored fibre placement, composites manufacturing

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